Thursday, June 30, 2011

Readings for July 3 2011

Hello Everyone,

I looks like I haven't posted for the last two weeks. Sorry about that. Part of that time was vacation that I took. Well, I am now back from vacation. I did a lot of different things: golfed in the Hands of Hope Tournament; 3 days in Minneapolis with my daughter Jenn; went to hear Rabbi Harold Kushner at Beth El Synagogue while there; went to see my personal physician while there; officiated a wedding ceremony at GEUMC; went to church in Clarissa; sang for my supper at the Community Fellowship Dinner in Long Prairie; did my laundry; and spent 3 days in Fargo with my son Zach and daughter Megan and her husband Jeremiah and their 3 rambunctious dogs. Several hours after my return home Cheryl returned from her 9 day bus tour to New England (Martha’s Vineyard, Nantucket, Portsmouth, Kennebunkport, and Boston). I think we are both glad to be done with vacation.

This week we have a lot of Old Testament scriptures to choose from. Through the Pentecost season (until November 13) the lectionary provides us either a continuous reading of the OT stories with Psalms chosen for them or OT readings that relate to the Gospel lesson with the appropriate Psalm. Each week I will list them all and that should give us plenty to read.

Genesis 24:34-38, 42-49, 58-67 – Because Easter was so late this year we have missed the early Pentecost stories of Abraham and Sarah: his call, his journeys to Egypt and other lands, the promise of a son that would eventually lead to a great nation, the union of Hagar to Abraham at Sarah’s behest, the birth of Ismael to Hagar, the birth of Isaac to Sarah, the enmity between Sarah and Hagar, Hagar’s banishment, the near sacrifice of Isaac, and the death of Sarah. This brings us to our story today. Abraham sends a trusted servant to his ancestral lands, Ur, to find Isaac a wife. When the servant arrives he prays to God to show him the woman and that woman is Rebekah. The first two sections are the servant’s retelling of what happened in verses 1-27. Verses 50-57 is the negotiation for the hand of Rebekah, which is settled by agreeing to ask her what she wants to do. 58-67 is her response, the goodbyes, and the return to Canaan and Abraham’s home with Isaac’s reaction (love).

Psalm 45:10-17 – The Psalmist calls on a maiden to leave her lands and family and marry the king. OR The Song of Solomon 2:8-13 – The Song of Solomon is the love poetry of a man and a woman. The book alternates who is speaking and in this section it is the woman, the beloved. She admires his good looks and tells us what he says to her. The Song of Solomon is a wonderful, sensuous celebration of emotional, spiritual, and, yes, physical love. It comes between the bleakness of Ecclesiastes and the power of Isaiah.

Zechariah 9:9-12 – This passage is often read on Palm Sunday. As I read the Gospel lesson I am not so sure why this reading was chosen.

Psalm 145:8-14 – You might as well read the entire Psalm because it is a wonderful praise of God who is: King, great, mighty, glorious, wondrous, abundantly good, gracious, merciful, slow to anger, abounding in steadfast love, compassionate, faithful, just, kind, near, fulfilling, hearing, watching, and holy. Many of these words are used multiple times. Every Psalm that praises God seems to include one thing that irks us and that happens in the last half of verse 20: God destroys the wicked. How does this fit in with the rest of the Psalm?

Romans 7:15-25a – The Lectionary also gives us a continuing reading in several epistles during the Pentecost season. Again, because of the lateness of Easter, we have missed the first 4 readings in Romans. Last week you probably heard the passage from Romans 6 that ends with “For the wages of sin is death but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (6:23)” This reminded me of 3:23, “since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” We often hear the first part of 6:23 and all of 3:23 without hear the remainder of the sentence: “the free gift of God is eternal life” and “they are now justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (3:24). Paul, in our reading, knows that he (and we) are sinners and he knows that he (and we) have received the free gift, but he struggles with it in his own life, as we also struggle. He knows what is right but does wrong. He wants to stop what is wrong but can’t. Isn’t this so true for all of us. We are all wretched in this respect. So who will rescues us from this predicament? Is it not the God of Psalm 145 working through Jesus Christ? Only God can save us.

Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30 – In verses 2-6 John the Baptizer, who is in prison, sends a couple of his disciples to ask Jesus if he is truly the one whom John had announced. He sends them back with the message of what they have heard and seen: blind see, lame walk, deaf hear, lepers cleansed, dead raised, and the good new proclaimed to the poor. In verses 7-15 Jesus praises John. In the first section of our reading Jesus wonders what is wrong with the people who disregard John’s message and Jesus’ message. The skipped verses are Jesus’ woes to a couple of Jewish cities who reject his message and compares them to two Gentile cities who would have received it. The second part is a short prayer to God his Father. A familiar and famous verse comes at the end, “For my yoke is easy [to wear], and my burden is light.” What message will we respond to: the severe message of gloom and doom, the message of grace and gospel of Jesus, or neither?

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Readings for Trinity Sunday, June 12, 2011

Hello Everyone, Grace and Peace to all,

Every year the Sunday after Pentecost is dedicated to the theological concept of the Triune nature of God, simply called the Trinity. All Christians affirm God’s nature as being one. There is only one God. Yet God is present to us in three important ways: creator, redeemer, and sustainer. Love (for God is Love, 1 John 4:16b) that creates all, love that redeems all, and love that sustains all. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Each year on this Sunday we have a different texts that reflect and inform on this nature.

Genesis 1:1-2:4a – “In the beginning God . . .” The story of creation over 6 time periods, days, which culminates in God declaring all to be good and then resting on the seventh. It is a good exercise to compare the methodical creation of this story with the messy, artistic creation of Genesis 2:4b-25. Compare, especially, the order of creation. What comes first, second, etc. Which creation story is the right one? Both. Why?

Psalm 8 – David, the psalmist, reflects on God’s creation and how small he feels within that creation. But he also realizes that God has given humanity dominion over creation. This psalm might give us something to think about when it comes to our stewardship of that creation.

2 Corinthians 13:11-13 – As Paul finishes his letter he invokes the triune God. Notice what he associates with each: Jesus is grace, God is love, and the Holy Spirit is communion. Paul wants us to be filled with grace, love, and communion – the essence of God. One other line is worthy of notice. “Greet one another with a holy kiss.” This was not men and women kissing, but men kissing men and women kissing women. And it was not lip on lip. It was more of a cheek to cheek kind of kiss. Americans today, especially in church, are more comfortable with the “Holy Handshake”.

Matthew 28:16-20 – When Jesus ascends into heaven from a mountain in Galilee he commissions the disciples to spread the good news “making disciples of all nations (not individuals?)”, baptizing, and teaching. The fourfold commission is “Go, Make Disciples, Baptize, and Teach.” The key words for Trinity Sunday is that we are to baptize in the “name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” How can we, as followers of Jesus, go and make disciples? How do we teach others? How do we baptize? Who is allowed to baptize? Most denominations think only priests, pastors, bishops, etc. are allowed to do baptisms, but I am not sure that that is supported by scripture.

May the grace of Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Readings for June 12 2011 - Pentecost Sunday

Grace and Peace to All,

This Sunday is Pentecost Sunday and it is the traditional birthday of the church. Church, and how church is done, has changed over the millennium, sometimes for good and sometimes not. Sometimes it seems that the pray of Jesus in John 17 that we be one together is just another utopian pipe dream. We argue about doctrinal differences, social policy, and who is right and who is wrong. We have even killed each other over those differences. Christianity currently has three main branches: Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and Protestant. Within Protestantism there are literally hundreds of denominations worldwide. One of the biggest problems for the 2000 year old church is the loss of worshipers, especially the teenagers and young adults. How are we to do church and be church that will be meaningful to this group? Can we do church without being church? Can we be church without doing church? The earliest church, the first few decades after Pentecost, was a gathering of people (mostly lower class workers, servants, and slaves) in homes around a meal to remember Jesus Christ in the bread and wine, to learn to live in God’s family with love, and to then reach out to others with the hope, love, grace and forgiveness of the Gospel. Can this be the model for “church” for our young people?

Since the color for Pentecost Sunday is red, I invite you to wear something red to church this Sunday. Guys, it can be as simple as wearing a red tie. Ladies, red hats in church would be fun if you have them. Pass the word on to others who don’t get this email.

Our readings this week are all about God’s Spirit.

Numbers 11:24-30 – There is trouble brewing in “desert” city (apologies to “Music Man”). The Israelites are still wandering in the desert and they are grumbling again. Earlier, when they complained about the lack of food to eat, God gave them manna. Now they are complaining to Moses about manna. Can you hear it? “Manna for breakfast, manna for lunch and manna for dinner. Manna pancakes, manna fried, manna biscuits, manna bread, manna chips, and manna soup; when will we get some meat?” Moses can’t bear the complaints and he complains to God. God tells Moses to find 70 elders. God then gives the elders a portion of the spirit that he gave Moses and they prophesy for one time. This is supposed to relieve the burden that Moses carries although we don’t know how it relieves that burden. God also promises to give the people meat to eat, so much that they will find it coming out of their noses and choking on it. (The quails that are given actually bring death to many of the people) This is the bulk of chapter 11. Our passage is only about the 70 elders and 2 others that receive God’s spirit.

Psalm 104:24-34, 35b – The entire Psalm is about praising God who has created all things. God’s spirit brings life and all is renewed. The entire Psalm is about the goodness of God and God’s creation except the little bit of verse 35 that the lectionary skipped. After praising God for 34 verses the psalmist has to take a swipe at sinners and the wicked.

1 Corinthians 12:3b-13 – According to Paul, the Spirit is manifest in all Christians in different ways. Each gift that is given is given by the same Spirit. Paul also lists the gifts that are given by the Spirit. In verses 12-13 Paul compares the variety of gifts given to the one body of Christ, the Church, to the variety of organs and appendages of one human body, all working for the good of the body.

Acts 2:1-21 – The giving of the Spirit of God to the Disciples on Pentecost. Pentecost was a Jewish festival and many people had travelled to Jerusalem. The Disciples are gathered in the upper room. They a sound like the rushing of the wind. They saw tongues as of fire resting on each of them. They then began to speak in other languages. (This is not “speaking in tongues”.) The crowds gathered and heard the disciples in their native languages. Are they drunk? Peter begins to speak and tells the crowds that this was prophesied in the Scriptures (Old Testament). We read the last part of Peter’s sermon several weeks ago and we heard the results: 3000 we added to the believers. Since it is assumed that many of those new believers were from all the places listed in the text, when they returned home they became the foundation of church when the apostles got there.

John 7:37-39 – This is our last reading in John for a while, until December 11. Next week we will return to Matthew. In this short passage Jesus calls on the people to come to the living waters which John associates with the Spirit.

The Spirit is a wind, a tongue of fire, and living waters. The Spirit gives gifts. How does the Spirit blow in you? Is it burning in and on you? Can you drink in the Spirit? What gift do you use for the glory of God’s kingdom/family?